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FOR EXPERT COMMENT: MU Expert Available for Media Commentary on Republican Presidential Primary Debate

September 14th, 2015

Story Contact: Jeff Sossamon, 573-882-3346,

The views and opinions expressed in this “for expert comment” release are based on research and/or opinions of the researcher(s) and/or faculty member(s) and do not reflect the University’s official stance.

COLUMBIA, Mo. ­— On Wednesday, Sept. 16, a Republican presidential primary debate will take place at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., and broadcast nationally by CNN. As only the second time the leading Republican candidates will meet on the same stage, this debate represents a crucial moment for the large field of Republican candidates seeking their party’s presidential nomination.

Mitchell S. McKinney, noted professor of political communication at the University of Missouri, is a nationally and internationally recognized scholar of presidential debates whose work in analyzing candidate debates has taken him across the country and the world. McKinney also is director of the Political Communication Institute at MU.

“Candidates approach their primary debate performances much differently than candidates engaged in general-election debates,” said McKinney, who also serves as chair of the Department of Communication in the College of Arts and Science at MU. “In previous studies, I’ve found that viewers find these early debate encounters much more useful than presidential debates that occur near the end of the campaign.”

McKinney’s extensive research has focused particular attention on presidential primary debates, with his analysis indicating that a candidate’s debate performance at this formative stage of the campaign can greatly enhance—or hinder—their ability to emerge as the eventual nominee. McKinney’s work also has identified key debate strategies that candidates use to distinguish themselves from their party rivals and emerge from a large field of opponents.

In 1992, McKinney consulted with the Commission on Presidential Debates, advising the Commission on how debates could be structured in order to better educate citizens on significant campaign issues. McKinney’s research was influential in the creation of the presidential town hall debate. He also served as an advisor to the presidential debate committee of South Korea in 2002 as Seoul officials planned their very first televised presidential debates.

In addition to advising international, national, state and local campaign debate planning committees, McKinney is the co-author of “Presidential Debates in Focus,” and he has co-authored and edited a number of books and numerous research articles on presidential debates.